10/16/14 – Great Scott

From a red beat-up van with New York plates, four Danish punks emerged.

Six time zones removed from Copenhagen, they seemed disoriented as they took the stage at Great Scott in Allston later that night. Frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt paced the stage with empty eyes, a human vessel with contents unknown. He introduced each song by name, purposefully killing the joy that comes from anticipation. With the exception of the slightly disconcerting introduction to “Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled,” (“This song is about father”) there were no other verbal interactions with the crowd.

Iceage embodies the ultimate contradiction of true punk music: the ability to make strikingly good songs while genuinely not giving a fuck about anything.

Led by their nihilistic ringleader Rønnenfelt, Iceage conveyed a sense of absolute ambivalence. But that’s not to say they weren’t really there. When Rønnenfelt stared blankly at the audience or held his Euro-coifed head to the PA speaker, not only was he present—all attention was on him. In a room full of young Bostonians throwing each other around the floor, the young Danes looked alone, creating a sense of emotional distance all the more captivating.

Bypassing their first two albums for a setlist based exclusively on the newly released Plowing Into the Field of Love, Iceage seemed to disavow their punk roots for their new post-punk sound. Their influences spanned the T-shirts of the erudite crowd, from the hardcore punk of Minor Threat, to the legendary post-punk of Joy Division, to the tasteful noise of Sonic Youth.

The band stormed through nine new tracks, including all three singles from their new album. With the album’s more diverse instrumentation and higher value of production, however, many of the songs fell flat live. “How Many”—without its added percussion and piano—was barren, and “Lord’s Favorite One”—with its percussive guitar and country-tinged bassline—didn’t translate entirely.

Still, Rønnenfelt’s fierce (if incomprehensibly slurred) vocals carried “Forever,” even without the horns of the studio version. Other tracks like “Plowing Into the Field of Love” sounded even better, with Johan Wieth’s guitar riffs and surprisingly masterful embellishments taking center stage. Each song ebbed and flowed with the powerful use of dynamics. Distressed vocals and pounding drums receded to give way to driving basslines or melodic guitar riffs. The crowd reacted accordingly, interchanging between frantic moshing and standing still. A few yelled out song requests (“White Rune!” or “You’re Nothing!”), but most knew to expect only the new ones.

Oddly, the crowd seemed unfazed when Iceage’s set came to a rather premature end. After 45 minutes, it was all said and done. The band was gone as quickly as they’d come in with an utterly insignificant “thanks.”

As it became clear there would be no encore, the crowd filtered outside where the bassist was already halfway through a cigarette. Local bands were handing out flyers as the MBTA 66 bus rolled through the intersection. The bassist seemed genuinely surprised as he received compliments from fans, but he didn’t seem overjoyed. Life went on as it tends to do, and Iceage didn’t seem to mind.

Too Cool to Care: Iceage
Pros
  • Captivating stage presence
  • Punk energy
Cons
  • Short set
  • Only played new material
8True Punks

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